After winning NIT with Wichita State, Gregg Marshall may finally get his long-awaited shot at a major program. (Photo courtesy of GoShockers.com)
Far too often in the world of college basketball do we see players and coaches that are unable to show the world just how good they really are on a larger scale, be it for varying reasons. In the coaching landscape, postseason success is the biggest indicator of how one moves up or down the ladder; and with the success of mid-majors in March, it's safe to say that coaches like Shaka Smart of VCU and Butler's Brad Stevens (the latter insists he isn't going anywhere) will have their pick of offers from programs within the six BCS conferences that comprise Division I hoops. Not too far away from Smart and Stevens is a coach that has been making believers out of critics for pieces of three decades going back to his first head coaching gig in 1998, culminating with his most recent triumph last night at Madison Square Garden in the NIT championship. If you don't know Gregg Marshall yet, all I can say is that it's a shame you haven't been introduced to the name and man who is one of the country's most underrated head men.
Marshall came to Wichita State following Mark Turgeon's departure for Texas A&M, joining the Shockers after spending nine years turning Winthrop into the model program in the Big South Conference and giving the league its first NCAA Tournament win outside of a play-in game when the Eagles defeated Notre Dame in the first round back in 2007. Having only posted just one losing season in 13 years at the helm of a Division I school, Marshall will enter the 2011-12 season wherever he ends up with a 276-138 record and one postseason championship after the Shockers defeated Alabama 66-57 last night to win their first NIT title. Where he goes with it is anyone's guess; but if he does leave Wichita State, it will be for a much-deserved opportunity elsewhere that he could (and should) have received years ago.
Last year, I mentioned that Marshall would be a good fit for my alma mater St. John's had Steve Lavin not come along as a candidate. Mind you, this was before Lavin was even considered; back when the list of candidates included luminaries such as Paul Hewitt, Seth Greenberg, Fran McCaffery, Al Skinner and Tommy Amaker. In retrospect, Marshall would have been just as good a fit at Seton Hall had the Pirates looked elsewhere when replacing Bobby Gonzalez with Kevin Willard. However, hindsight is 20/20; and if a guy like Marshall has to wait to get his chance to work magic at the BCS level, it's better late than never.
With Matt Painter opting to remain at Purdue, Missouri still needs a coach after Mike Anderson returned to the Arkansas program he once served as an assistant at; and Oklahoma is still looking after Buzz Williams spurned the Sooners to re-sign with Marquette. Aside from the two Big 12 institutions is North Carolina State, a school that was rumored to have looked at Marshall back in 2006 before turning to Sidney Lowe. Ironically, Lowe was a fallback as well; as the Wolfpack's first choice was none other than the aforementioned Steve Lavin.
If Marshall goes to the ACC, he inherits a team returning most of its talent, but will have to live in the shadow of North Carolina, Duke and Maryland in a never-ending battle for top talent that just attracted a new member when Brian Gregory was announced as the new coach at Georgia Tech. It's a little off topic, but here's a look at Gregory inside the numbers from my friend over at The East Coast Bias:
Marshall will also pick up coveted 2011 commitment Tyler Harris should he go to the Wolfpack. Oklahoma isn't in as good shape as North Carolina State may be; and maybe even harder to win right away given the level the Sooners are at compared to in-conference rivals Kansas, Texas, Kansas State and Missouri. Speaking of the Tigers, who were spurned indirectly by Cuonzo Martin as well when the Missouri State coach left for Tennessee despite being considered the top choice to move to Columbia; Missouri returns their whole team from their 2010-11 campaign, one where they made the NCAA Tournament as a No. 11 seed in the West regional, losing their round of 64 matchup against Cincinnati. Taking the Missouri job would also be easier on his family in that it wouldn't be as difficult of a move as Oklahoma or North Carolina State would be from Wichita State, something Marshall referenced a few years ago in an interview with The Mid-Majority that asked him about his transition from life in South Carolina while coaching Winthrop to moving to the Midwest and the Missouri Valley Conference.
Regardless of where Gregg Marshall ends up, one result will show itself sooner than later: His ability to turn a mid-level team in its conference into a winner. Wherever he goes, you'll see his team in a postseason tournament within one recruiting cycle; and maybe this time it won't be under the radar for one of the most underrated coaches in the nation.